The Return of Bird of the Week: Greater Sage Grouse


Greater Sage Grouse male displaying, Snake River Plain, Idaho

Greater Sage Grouse male displaying, Snake River Plain, Idaho

The Greater Sage Grouse is an iconic species of the Western United States. It’s also near-threatened. Preserving its habitat is one of the hot button issues of conservation in the United States.

This is North America’s biggest grouse, with the males sometimes weighing more than six pounds. Thy are famous for their lekking behavior: the males assemble in a relatively small area to engage in a complex display and compete for the attention and breeding privileges.

Male Greater Sage Grouse competing for attention of two hens to the left

Male Greater Sage Grouse competing for attention of two hens to the left

Mostly the females show a studied indifference to the males’ conduct.

Female Greater Sage Grouse on lek

Female Greater Sage Grouse on lek

Greater Sage Grouse are sagebrush obligates, meaning they depend on relatively undisturbed sagebrush habitat for forage, nesting and cover. As that sagebrush habitat disappears under pressure of mining, oil and gas development, invasive grasses, grazing and other human impacts, the peril of the Greater Sage Grouse increases.

Male Greater Sage Grouse in full display, Snake River Plain, Idaho

Male Greater Sage Grouse in full display, Snake River Plain, Idaho

 

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